FOR EVERY CELEBRATED BEAUTY with a household name, there are thousands of households in which unsung beauties bloom. To find and salute them, we selected three bustling and disparate climes and dispatched three assiduous photographers with instructions to shoot on site the sort of people who surprise and delight us all in our arduous daily rounds. Trekking the width and depth of rugged Maine, Mario Ruiz discovered that “the people were the opposite of the weather—sensitive, friendly and aware.” He means that literally: He snapped three of them in a pounding rainstorm. In the flatlands around Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Richard Marshall had to network, to unearth willing, winsome candidates, partly because he found the locals “friendly but self-effacing. [Without help] you can only break the ice up to a point.” In San Antonio and Austin, Zigy Kaluzny enjoyed meeting 30 freshly selected cheerleaders from the University of Texas. Zigy’s choice had “serenity and a little sensuality that I responded to. You can’t be totally neutral about this.” But you can be totally convinced that after snapping 4,508 frames, PEOPLE’S photographers have merely skimmed the surface of American beauty.
Sculptor, Northeast Harbor; single, 34.
He used to be a Wall Street trader. “But I was such a bad boy, I had to get out before I killed myself. I had grown up in Maine, so I moved back…. I was flat broke and making [the animals as] Christmas presents, and friends said I was crazy not to be selling them.”
Survival-education teacher, Mattanawcook Island; married (four children), 32.
He is one of only 1,970 Penobscot Indians in America. “To keep the Penobscot culture alive, that’s my whole goal in life,” he says, adding with a smile, “that, and fun.” For the latter, he paints, hunts, races canoes and builds them too. The birch-bark beauty on his back was crafted in eight days.
LESLIE KAVANAGH & SALLY SAWYER
Greenhouse partners, Bethel; married (two children), 38 (Kavanagh), and single, 33.
“We start planting in early February, and the growing season is very short,” says Sawyer (right). “It’s pretty intense.” Both like their green thumbs but say they would change their noses.
Boutique owner, Kennebunkport; married (two sons), 51.
She jogs five to seven miles a day, more when she’s training for a marathon. “I started running almost 28 years ago because I was always late for work and rushing to get there. Just living is beautiful,” she says, adding, “I wouldn’t mind being taller [she’s 5’5]. Luckily, my mother taught me good posture.”
WINSTON ELLIS & JAYN THOMAS
Marine-hardware manufacturer (Dad), childrens-wear designer, Mt. Desert; married, 43 and 36.
“When people see my daughter with me, they say, ‘Oh, she looks just like you,’ ” reports Thomas. “But when they see her with my husband, they say she looks just like him.” That’s Blake, 4, on her lap, son Chandler, 2, on his, both wearing outfits designed by Mommy.
Auction house administrator, Kennebunkport; single, 24.
Growing up, she says, “All my friends were cute, and I was kind of weird-looking.” Now she gets complimented on her looks—but not on her cooking. “I’m a toaster-oven chef and the Pop-Tarts queen.”
L.L. Bean salesman, Durham; single, 32.
“My mom was a Rose Queen. People used to say I looked like her. I thought that meant I looked like a girl, but I figured out I was handsome.”
Retired movie and theater director, Boothbay Harbor; divorced (one daughter), 65.
“I was a pretty good-looking chap in the early days, and I found people shied when you walked in a bar. They wondered if you were for real. It’s wonderful to be attractive, but it is a burden in a way too.”
JEFF ZEILER & BETH BRADSFORD
Students, U. of Southern Maine, Portland; both single and 23.
“Beauty is something that’s pure, that’s not afraid of being itself,” says Bradsford, who paints. For boyfriend Zeiler, beauty is “music, books, my girlfriend. Her eyes attracted me. They’re deep and bouncing.”
Singer/dancer, Minneapolis; single, 35.
Growing up in Louisiana, he recalls, “I’d go down to the woods by our farm and sing to the cows in an area where sound would just echo.” Now he sings lead in a vocal group, Moore by Four. He has a scar under his eye from an aerosol can that burst while he was burning trash on the farm as a boy. “I used to be uncomfortable with my looks because of the scar,” he says. “But it has become a character scar for me.”
KELLY & KERBY NORMAN
Sophomores, U. of Minn., Crystal; single, 20.
They’re not the Minnesota Twins, but they are identical, so anything they do together is sort of a double play. Kelly (left) plays outfield and Kerby catches for the U of M varsity softball team. They’d like a double wedding someday, but for now that’s just a wild pitch.
Decorator, Minneapolis; married (four children), 38.
Her company specializes in hand-finished surfaces. “Beauty is anything that inspires comfort and serenity,” she says. Her best feature? “My eyes. They’re blue and bed-roomy. What do I hate? My thighs, of course.”
Dairy farmer, Isanti; married (one son), 43.
Don’t tell him not to have a cow, man. He has 250 holsteins. “I’m in good physical condition from milking,” he says. “I do a lot of deep knee bends.” He runs a 700-acre spread, including the house where he was born and raised and the 200 acres his father used to farm. “Beauty is life itself,” he remarks. “It means a lot to me just to be a part of it.”
Artist, San Antonio; married (three children), 40.
“I work with faded papers, old photos, parts of books and devices like old picture frames, and then I start layering,” she says. “What I try to create is a remembered sensation. It’s a sensory involvement with the past I’m interested in.”
Emergency medical technician, Austin; single, 25.
“I’m the one who responds to the 911 calls,” she says. “I was in long-term rehabilitation before, but I love this job because it is spontaneous and requires quick thinking.” She once entered a Miss Teenage USA contest but recalls, “I was completely unprepared. I tried to sing a French song and got tangled up in the mike cord.” She does know why she puts up with the stress of 911: “Helping someone in need really makes you feel good.”
Jewelry maker, Austin; single, 25.
The son of a Sardinian father and a French mother, he grew up in Bordeaux, “where the good wine comes from. I heard about Austin and the music scene—I play guitar—and decided to move here because I love the hot weather. Beauty,” he says, “is something that shocks you, and when you are facing it, you can’t say anything. Only later, when you think about it, can you discuss what made it beautiful. When I met my girlfriend in a little restaurant where the students go, I just stared at her for two hours.”
Senior, U. of Texas, and part-time banker, Austin; single (one son), 30.
“I’ve never been insecure about my looks because I’m a strong person,” says the determined young lady whose name is a twist on jardin, French for garden. “I never wore makeup until I was 22.” She digs Vanessa Williams (“Her eyes are unique”), Keenan Ivory Wayans (“God, he’s fine”) and Bo Jackson (“I like guys who lift weights”).
Junior, U. of Texas, Austin; single, 20.
In drama class she did Madonna. “My dad made me a cone bra. I slicked my hair back, wore tons of makeup and did Vogue.” Did Papa preach? “He wanted credit for making the bra.”
Senior, St. Mary’s U., San Antonio; single, 24.
He’s a marketing major and a Chi Phi fraternity brother, but his great passion is charreada—Mexican-style rodeo. He himself is a bronco-busting, trick-roping, rough-and-tumble charro, or horseman. “I’ve had several concussions, and I almost broke my jaw bull-riding. Instead, the bull broke his horn. I kept it as a souvenir. I love being an American, but I also love keeping my heritage alive. It’s in my blood. I’d like to pass it on to my children.”
High school English teacher, Austin; single, 40.
Carpentry, his former career, “left me feeling empty. The beauty of teaching is that when a student responds with honesty, you see real growth.”